Third time's a charm.
LeBron James dominated the fourth quarter, and the Los Angeles Lakers rallied late to defeat the San Antonio Spurs, 121-113, on Wednesday night at Staples Center.
James scored 20 of his 42 points in the final frame, helping guide the Lakers back from a nine-point deficit.
"We were down eight," said James of when he decided to take over in the fourth quarter. "Once I got in, it was just a matter of me trying to make plays and see what happened."
San Antonio held an eight-point lead in the fourth before James scored nine straight points. LeBron recaptured the lead for the Lakers when he drove the lane, spun, and put enough English on a layup for an and-one to give LA a 96-95 lead.
James finished with 42 points, five rebounds and six assists. It was his third 40-point performance since donning the purple and gold.
"Have you watched LeBron play before?" asked a perplexed Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich when asked why James was so difficult to guard in the fourth. "He is LeBron James. That's what makes him difficult to guard."
It was the third meeting between the two Western Conference teams with San Antonio winning the first two matchups earlier in the season in October.
"They've had our number up until this point," said James. "They beat us the first two games and beat us on our home floor. We've been playing so well at home we wanted to continue that."
Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan combined for 63 points and LaMarcus Aldridge chipped in 21 for the Spurs in the loss.
"It got away from us in the fourth quarter," said DeRozan following the loss. "The Lakers hit seven threes. They got on a roll. Even though we were scoring, going back and forth, back and forth, we couldn't get those critical stops when we needed them and that kind of killed us in the last couple minutes of the game."
Lonzo Ball had 13 points and nine assists for the Lakers, and added a highlight reel dunk in the first quarter.
Ball weaved his way through traffic and threw down a one-handed slam with 5:24 remaining in the first quarter, prompting Spurs' head coach Gregg Popovich to take a timeout.
The sophomore point guard has been more aggressive lately and its showed as the Lakers have won four straight.
"Whenever Luke puts me out there I'm going to do whatever I can to help the team win," said Ball. "I've had the ball in my hands more, trying to initiate the offense, try and get guys in the right spot, and make sure we don't lose leads."
Kyle Kuzma had 22 points for the Lakers and Kentavius Caldwell-Pope finished with 12 points off the bench.
"It's not so much him [LeBron] being the closer, it's everyone being the closer," said Kuzma of the team's fourth quarter. "He's a willing passer, so everyone has an opportunity to close the game. Everyone stepped up and made plays in the fourth quarter."
However, it wasn't all roses for the Lakers, as forward Brandon Ingram sprained his left ankle in the first quarter and did not return to the game. X-rays taken after the game were negative.
"It will be evaluated tomorrow," said Lakers head coach Luke Walton. "There is no timetable or anything like that yet. But he said they got him pretty good."
The fourth and final meeting between the Spurs and Lakers will take place on Friday night at the AT&T Center in San Antonio.
Spurs: Longtime Lakers big man Pau Gasol didn't get to play against his old team. He is out with a stress fracture in his left foot.
Lakers: Ingram had played at least 25 minutes in every game since he returned from a four-game suspension for fighting in Los Angeles' home opener.
Spurs: Host the Lakers on Friday.
Lakers: Visit the Spurs on Friday.